NEW YORK, N.Y. – Sidney Crosby scored his first goal. Marc-Andre Fleury posted his second straight shutout.
The New York Rangers’ power play still is proving to be nothing more than a problem for the Broadway Blueshirts.
So it is no surprise the Pittsburgh Penguins have taken control of an Eastern Conference semifinal that suddenly seems one-sided.
Crosby snapped a 13-game playoff goal drought in breaking a second-period scoreless tie, Jussi Jokinen added a goal, and Fleury turned aside 35 shots in a 2-0 victory in Game 3 on Monday night.
“The main thing is that you get chances and that you are out there creating things, making it tough on them,” Crosby said. “That’s the first step. Eventually you trust that it will go in.”
Coupled with Fleury’s 22 saves in a 3-0 victory one night earlier in Pittsburgh, the Penguins have reclaimed home-ice advantage and lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.
Fleury has 51 career post-season wins and a team-record eight shutouts.
“I don’t think there was any question he was the best player on the ice,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
It is the first time the Rangers have been shut out in consecutive playoff games since the 1937 Stanley Cup finals against Detroit.
New York’s futile power play had already slowed down the offence, but now the Rangers can’t score at all. They were 0 for 5 with the advantage Monday, pushing their streak to 34 failed opportunities.
“You might be frustrated right now, but it does no good,” Rangers forward Brad Richards said. “We are in the middle of a series, and out of those three games, we played two real good ones.”
The Rangers haven’t scored since winning the opener in overtime. Game 4 is Wednesday in New York.
Henrik Lundqvist made 13 saves for the Rangers, who played for the fifth time in seven days. They have consecutive losses in these playoffs for the first time.
“We tried real hard. We were forced to play a stupid schedule,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “I am real proud of how our guys handled it.
“We put our best foot forward in each and every game. Now we’ve got a full day to recover.”
The tide turned in Pittsburgh’s favour in the second period for the third straight game.
New York had 2:15 remaining on a 4-minute power play that began in the first, but couldn’t cash in. To make matters worse for the Rangers, Crosby took a long stretch pass from defenceman Robert Bortuzzo, outraced Marc Staal, and beat Lundqvist between the pads from the left circle 19 seconds after James Neal left the penalty box. It was Crosby’s 41st career playoff goal.
The Penguins struck for their second goal right after killing another penalty. Jokinen jumped out of the box and got to a loose puck in the neutral zone after Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello failed to connect on a backward pass in the Pittsburgh end.
Jokinen came in alone and scored his fifth of the playoffs with 4:40 left in the second—8 seconds after his penalty ended.
“The Jokinen one, just stepping out of the box and finding his way onto that puck, and making it 2-0. That obviously is a tough pill to swallow,” Bylsma said of the Rangers.
New York was suddenly down by two and had the weight of its anemic power play enveloping the team even more. During the Rangers’ last advantage in the second period, the Madison Square Garden crowd implored them to “Shoot the puck!” They did, but to no avail.
New York led 26-14 in shots through two periods, yet trailed by two.
“I am happy about our whole team,” Vigneault said. “We played a real strong game. That is one of the best two-way teams in the league.”
Zuccarello thought earlier in the second that he had tied the game, but his drive struck the crossbar, skittered across the goal line, and stayed out.
The Rangers received their first power play 5:16 in when Marcel Goc was called for roughing Dominic Moore after an icing call.
Neal later got his 4-minute penalty for hitting Jesper Fast in the mouth with his stick with 1:45 remaining. Benoit Pouliot had the best chance during the first half of the advantage when he fired a drive off the right post with 14 seconds left in the period.
Before that, Zuccarello had the best scoring chance when he one-timed a pass from Pouliot during 5-on-5 play from the left circle that Fleury snagged with a stretch of his glove with 2:41 left.
Lundqvist turned aside Chris Kunitz on a breakaway, for the second time in as many days, during New York’s first power play.
“It’s the first to four wins,” Lundqvist said. “We will take a deep breath here and get ready for Wednesday.
“That’s going to be a very important game for us. This is definitely not over.”
NOTES: Crosby was nominated as a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award, given annually to the “Most Outstanding Player.” He won it last season and in 2007. … The Rangers replaced rugged forwards Daniel Carcillo and Derek Dorsett with Fast and J.T. Miller, and put defenceman Raphael Diaz in for the first time in these playoffs. John Moore sat out.